City falls short in offering homes for those with little income. Official says most of city’s affordable places are for seniors.
By Brianna Bailey
Newport Beach is out of compliance with laws that require the city to address regional housing needs, according to state officials. Local affordable housing advocates say the city has done little to help the many low-income workers who work in fields like food service and housekeeping in the wealthy community.
“They’ve done virtually nothing to meet the needs of people with very low-incomes,” said Scott Darrell, executive director of the Kennedy Commission on Affordable Housing. “There are a lot of jobs in Newport Beach that are low-income — day-care providers, maids, certainly hospital workers. The city has not provided for the working families of their community.”
Bustling Fashion Island, with its many low-wage cashier and food service jobs, and Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian employ many workers who cannot afford to live in the same city where they work, Darrell said.
“It would be unfair to compare Newport Beach to a place like Laguna Woods, which doesn’t have a regional shopping mall or hospital, but there are a few cities out there who are doing better,” he said.
Costa Mesa, a city of about 113,000 people, has 1,435 units of affordable housing, according to city officials. That’s more than three times the number of affordable units in Newport Beach. With a population of about 80,000, Newport Beach has 191 units of affordable housing, according to the city’s General Plan. The actual number of affordable units in Newport Beach today is about 345 units, according to David Lepo, city planning director.
State housing laws require every city to address regional housing needs, including a “fair share” of housing for people of all income levels.
Newport Beach is out of compliance with state laws that require cities to address regional housing needs in their general plan, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development. In its general plan, Newport Beach suggested several sites that might be good places to build new housing, including near John Wayne Airport, Newport Center and Banning Ranch. But the city has not laid out a detailed and specific plan for developing housing on these sites, state officials say.
“There’s a lot of taking 1960 strip commercial centers and turning them into housing,” said Don Thomas, housing and community development specialist for the Department of Housing and Community Development. “There’s development that has to occur there. That’s part and partial of what needs to be included. We need to know the specifics.”
The state agency sent the city a letter dated Sept. 10 notifying the city it was out of compliance. The city must make changes “in a timely manner,” Thomas said.
Newport Beach also failed to reach its goals for meeting regional housing needs during its last state assessment. Newport Beach is due for another state evaluation in June 2008, and city officials say they hope do better the next time around.
“I’m confident with that we’ll be fine,” said Sharon Wood, Newport Beach assistant city manager. “In the next period, our performance is going to be a lot better.”
Much of Newport’s affordable housing is for senior citizens, Wood said. It’s difficult to get developers to build housing for people at the lowest income levels in Newport Beach because property values are high.
“Affordable housing is kind of like beach parking, there’s never enough,” Wood said. “But we can’t force anybody to build it. Because the land is much more expensive here, it requires a higher subsidy for affordable housing.”
Expense is no excuse, Darrell said.
“It requires the city to be very proactive to make sure that it happens,” he said.
BRIANNA BAILEY may be reached at (714) 966-4625 or at email@example.com.
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